Saving Canton’s Cats and Why It Is So Important.

Feral cat drawing by BZTAT
Drawing by BZTAT

I and other animal welfare advocates have been appearing at Canton, OH City Council meetings for a couple of months now, speaking on behalf of feral cats in the city.

We are trying to overturn a city run Animal Control program that saw 353 feral cats euthanized in 2011, most of which were only destroyed due to being unadoptable. It is a very draconian program that incentivizes the Animal Control Officer to trap a large number of feral cats and wild animals whose lives are ended needlessly.

Advocates have captured the attention of Canton City Council and the Mayor’s administration. After weeks of contentious debate, Council finally passed a resolution to form a TNR exploratory committee, bringing citizens and government officials together to study the issue and recommend a program. The Stark County Humane Society has decided to cease their contract with the city to euthanize feral cats beginning April 30, 2012. This is progress!

The city remains contracted with the Animal Control Officer whose record has prompted so much outrage in the community. His role will be minimized, and eventually eliminated, however, if an effective TNR program can be developed.

This sort of community effort will require a lot of work. Bringing together  community leaders and volunteers from diverse perspectives has its challenges, but I am hopeful that a positive outcome is imminent.

As I have engaged in the process, a question keeps being asked. Why are the cats so important when there are so many other issues of importance to the community?

For a dedicated animal and cat lover like me, the answer is easy. But to people less connected to animals, they do not see how intertwined pet ownership is to the majority of citizens in every community across America. For them, I have one word for explanation.


When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, Americans became acutely aware of how deeply embedded pets are in our lives and in our culture. Never before had it been made so clear that human beings will inevitably take risks to their own safety in order to save their pets. Rather than seek their own safety, residents of New Orleans and other cities refused to evacuate because they could not take their animals with them. Some lost their lives as a result, as did their pets.

Even if you do not care about animals yourself, you have to realize that other people do. Minimizing the value of animal life minimizes the depth of an animal lover’s emotional connection to animals. A lack of concern for animal welfare touches off some very deep emotions for people, and it will ALWAYS be met with hostility.

In addition to that, the way we treat animals, particularly domestic ones whose DNA has been purposely adapted for human purposes, is indicative of how we treat the needs of any living being. When the needs of animals are minimized or neglected, our arrogance leads to a disregard of other vulnerable beings in our culture.

The purpose of this blog is to bring about awareness to the connections between animal abuse and the abuse of vulnerable human beings. The needless slaughter of feral cats when there are better ways to manage them IS ANIMAL ABUSE. I cannot sit quietly by and let this happen in my own community.

I have been asked to participate in the Canton City Council TNR exploratory committee. I will do so with pride, and I will post updates here about the process.

What is happening in Canton is the status quo for Animal Control in the United States. My hope is that I can promote change both within and beyond my community.

Will you join me in that process? What is happening in your community, and what can you do to bring about positive change?





2 thoughts on “Saving Canton’s Cats and Why It Is So Important.”

  1. While I agree that, as you say, “This sort of community effort will require a lot of work,” it’s important to recognize that the futility of the traditional trap-and-kill approach.

    In fact, there’s ample evidence to suggest that we’re not going to kill our way out of the “feral cat problem.” Mark Kumpf, former president of the National Animal Control Association, refers to the traditional trap-and-kill approach as “bailing the ocean with a thimble.” “There’s no department that I’m aware of that has enough money in their budget to simply practice the old capture-and-euthanize policy; nature just keeps having more kittens” (Hettinger, 2008).

    Indeed, “successful” eradication programs on small oceanic islands demonstrate the enormous challenges involved in addressing this simple truth. On Marion Island, for example, it took 19 years to exterminate approximately 2,200 cats—using feline distemper, poisoning, hunting and trapping, and dogs (Bloomer & Bester, 1992). Just 115 square miles in total area, this barren, uninhabited South Indian Ocean island is the largest from which cats have been eradicated (Bester et al., 2002).

    I’ve been unable to find cost figures for the project, but if the Ascension Island effort is any indication, it must have been astronomical. On Ascension, roughly one-third the size of Marion, it cost the equivalent of $1.1 million to eradicate approximately 635 cats over 27 months (Ratcliffe et al., 2010). (Nearly 40 percent of the island’s pet cats were accidentally killed in the process, which, as one report noted, “caused public consternation.”)

    I don’t imagine Canton residents are willing to dedicate the resources necessary to scale up a similar program for their community. TNR may not be an ideal solution, but in most instances, it’s the best option we’ve got.

    Peter J. Wolf

    Literature Cited
    • Bester, M. N., Bloomer, J. P., Aarde, R. J. v., Erasmus, B. H., Rensburg, P. J. J. v., Skinner, J. D., et al. (2002). A review of the successful eradication of feral cats from sub-Antarctic Marion Island, Southern Indian Ocean. South African Journal of Wildlife Research, 32(1), 65–73.
    • Bloomer, J. P., & Bester, M. N. (1992). Control of feral cats on sub-Antarctic Marion Island, Indian Ocean. Biological Conservation, 60(3), 211-219.
    • Hettinger, J. (2008). Taking a Broader View of Cats in the Community. Animal Sheltering, 8–9.
    • Ratcliffe, N., Bell, M., Pelembe, T., Boyle, D., Benjamin, R., White, R., et al. (2010). The eradication of feral cats from Ascension Island and its subsequent recolonization by seabirds. Oryx, 44(01), 20–29.

  2. Thank you for your comprehensive comment, Peter! Indeed, eradication is futile. It does give people a false sense of resolution, temporarily, so it is hard to get them to see that a counter-intuitive approach like TNR will work so much better.

    It is a tough job to pull together a city wide effort. Not only is it difficult to win over the hearts and minds of city leaders and citizens, it is also difficult to bring a diverse crowd of volunteers together. We are committed to the process, though, and we will see it through!


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